Our Microbiome-what is it and why is it vital to our health

Ongoing extensive research on the human gut microbiome and it role in our health and disease prevention is a subject few people are aware of.  According to The Human  Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human – National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI),  “The microbiome is defined as the collective genomes of the microbes (composed of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live inside and on the human body”. Jul 16, 2012   What this means is that there are about 10 times more microbial cells as human cells*.  With this knowledge, it makes sense to take care of the “good bacteria” because it’s these microbes that will come to the rescue when the “bad bacteria, viruses” , etc, try to take over; making our bodies ill.  There are many functions of the bacteria.  Some of these functions are to digest our food, regulate our immune system, and protect against other bacteria that cause disease.  Additionally, some produce vitamins, including B vitamins such as B12, thiamine and riboflavin; also vitamin K which is needed for blood coagulation.

Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia are associated with dysfunction in the microbiome.**  The abnormal immune response against our normal substances and tissues happen when disease-causing microbes accumulate; as time goes on, then gene activity and metabolic processes begin to change.  It is thought that autoimmune disease is passed down in families by inheriting the family’s microbiome and not through DNA.

What does this mean for the average person?  How healthy our microbiome is correlates on how healthy or unhealthy the body reacts; influencing their susceptibility to diseases, infectious and chronic.  An example of this would be Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Some microbes can even determine how one responds to a drug treatment.  Studies conducted on the microbiome are leading researchers to presume that perhaps treating a bacterial infection (bad bacteria) by growing more “good” bacteria to fight the infection.

Boost your unique microbiome; thus restoring the healthy gut flora with these tips:

1) Eat more fiber.  Fiber will keep things moving avoiding stagnation.  The usual recommendation is about 40g per day.  Adequate fiber has been shown to reduce heart disease, weight gain and even some incidences of cancer.

2) Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, as many variations as possible to be sure to get all the various microbial species.  Prebiotic vegetables consist of high levels of inulin; examples of these could be onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem Artichoke, Chicory Root and Bananas.  Also dandelion greens are great in salads.

3) Eat fermented foods, just a tablespoon or two a day will provide many beneficial microbes to feed your gut.  Not only yogurt, raw milk cheeses or kefir, but also sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables such as fermented cauliflower, carrots and cucumbers (pickles).  Fermented foods have many beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus, lactobacillus and bifidobacterial.  Cultivating a diverse array of prebiotics lends to a healthy microbiome.

4) Avoid overuse of antibacterial sprays which do more damage than good; also avoid antibiotics if possible, except in advanced illness where antibiotics are truly needed.  If antibiotics are taken, then be sure to replace the good bacteria that was destroyed along with the bad by consuming probiotics.

Other foods good for the gut are collagen bone broth, or collagen shakes.  There are several brands on the market which are very good.  Bone broth can also be made at home with very little effort although it will take several hours to complete.

As you can see, feeding our gut flora with multiple sources of prebiotics and probiotics, which will increase the good bacteria in our microbiome, is essential to keeping the body healthy and strong, boosting our immune system to resist disease.  It may take anywhere from three to twelve weeks for the gut to heal by generating a new lining; to heal a leaky gut.

As always, be sure to discuss with your Personal Healthcare Practitioner any supplement you may want to take as there are some that may not be compatible with some medications you may be taking.  Although your Healthcare Provider may not feel that these supplements are worth taking, it may be that he/she is just not educated on treatments other than medications.  There are many valid studies done in Europe, particularly Germany, for many of the supplements one can take for health improvement. These studies are readily available for research on the World Wide Web.

*The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human – National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Jul 16, 2012

**The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, “The Human Microbiome”



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